photo: Eddy van Wessel


Friday, April 11, 2014

Tying the knot

When I pass a church somewhere in the world, I stop and burn a candle. Usually to the memory of my long gone mother, but sometimes to ask for a blessing for something new I am going to do.

It is a Catholic ritual, and I have adopted it even though I am a Protestant by birth. And I know I am not the only non-Catholic who is using this, because the ritual soothes the heart.

Lovers who want to declare their loyalty to each other, can attach a padlock to a bridge in Paris and throw the key away. So many have already done this, that the bridge is covered by locks. Just like Kurdish lovers might visit the grave of Mem u Zin in Cizre for their love to be eternal.

Rituals are international, and Kurdistan has some that are very old. Like the knots that people tie, to make a wish come true. The interesting feature of this, is that it must be something regional rather than religious, as it is seen throughout all religions.

Go to the remains of Iraq’s last synagogue in Al Qosh, and you will find wish ribbons that have been tied to the gate around the grave of the prophet Nahum. The ritual is supposed to be combined with circling the grave, and must stem from the days that this was a place of pilgrimage for Jews in Iraq.

At the Yazidi temple of Lalesh, you will be invited to tie a knot and make a wish. Lalesh also is a place of pilgrimage for the Yazidi community from all over the world.

And at the little chapel of Rabban Hormizd, in the mountains high above Al Qosh, white bands are tied into a tree by women who ask for the blessing of God to conceive a child. Recently I have seen the same white ribbons at a mountain chapel in Lebanon.

In the West we use often ribbons to show our solidarity. A pink ribbon on the lapel of your jacket for cancer patients, a red one for Aids patients, a green one for those who suffer kidney cancer.

But in America, family members and friends of those fighting abroad or those kept hostage, would tie yellow ribbons onto trees wishing for their safe return.

The culture of empowering your wish by making a knot is a way of communicating with your God, or just trying to influence your fate. That’s why it is so old and international. We all want to do that, where ever we are and for whatever reason.

And that is why this ritual stays, even in modernity when many old habits are disposed of. Because there will always be something to wish for. So tie the knot! 

This blog was first published in Kurdish in the daily Kurdistani Nwe

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